Russell Johnson: Representing the people,
or acting as Arp's defense attorney?
By Joe Webb Talk Back

And so it begins … Johnson smearing lipstick on the pig (as predicted). What did I tell you to expect? According to the News-Sentinel, Johnson says:

Arp had the authority to make adjustments and corrections to the 2005 appraisals as he deemed necessary … The adjustments also were made within the legal time frame for the 2005 assessment. The yearly deadline for finalizing assessments is May 20. Arp authorized the adjustments to be entered into the system on May 4, Johnson said.

That is exactly what a defense attorney would argue. However, the argument would fall flat when a prosecutor representing the people asked “Why just those particular properties? Why not the adjacent lots? What salient attributes did those particular lots possess (other than ownership by a particular development group) that merited appraisal reduction which adjacent lots did not possess?”

The article continues …

The absence and possible destruction of records associated with the adjustments to the appraisals also carries with it the possibility of criminal charges, Johnson said. Even if records were lost or destroyed, such a decision might not be a criminal act, he said … According to state law, the assessor has the authority to create the standards for how and which assessment records are stored, which means Arp may have had the legal authority to keep or destroy records as he saw fit, Johnson added.

Same argument here. It makes a reasonably good cover argument about legal authority, but fails utterly to deal with the motive for exercising that authority. Someone concerned with the people’s interest would ask “why were just those particular records destroyed and why not the one record before, or the one record after”?

I’m just spit-ballin’ here, but I’m willing to bet that if asked about the “coincidence” of Arp’s son being hired by the developer group into a cushy Real Estate job just months after the reductions which directly benefited them, Arp’s defense attorney, Johnson would reply “did the developer group, Arp’s son, or Arp say that that he got the job in return for the favorable appraisal? If not, no quid pro quo, hence, no crime.”

This ladies and gentlemen is why Mr. Johnson should have recused his himself and his office.

Lets just be blunt: Russell Johnson is in office right now because Scott McCluen expressed a willingness to go after Tony Aikens and other powerful members of the local political machine and they didn’t like it. How are they supposed to milk the people like dairy cows for personal wealth with an honest DAG patrolling the streets? McCluen just being McCluen made it harder for them to get away with taking advantage of their position.

Now, if you’re an ambitious, hard working local crook, how do you solve the McCluen problem? Simple. You give your political support to someone like Johnson who will faithfully provide legal cover for whatever you want to do in exchange for that support – kinda like a bribed street cop only slightly greasier and better dressed – and Bingo … problem solved.

With Russell Johnson as the cop on the “official corruption” beat, Loudon County is like Chicago in the 30s. The crooks have free reign with “their man” on patrol. The only material differences are that no one has been murdered (yet), and Al Capone didn’t wear lots of cheap polyester, or adorn the entrance to his bootlegging operations with faux Roman columns.

You can expect some horse dung announcement from Johnson in the next few weeks reporting that after “careful and thorough investigation there is no evidence of criminal wrong-doing”. Mr. Arp is exonerated. Commission will applaud him for suffering the slings and arrows of false accusations, and the morons who tolerate these thieving crooks are expected to get back to work, pay their taxes, and shut the heck up.

None of this may matter anyway because the statute of Limitations on Arp’s conduct in this matter (two years) has expired. A successful criminal prosecution is unlikely. It may turn out that the only useful thing the people of Loudon County get out of this is a keen understanding of just how corrupt their government really is. It will be sobering, but instructive.

You, ladies and gentlemen, are enjoying a front row seat to watch your District Attorney General smear some lipstick on a pig – and sell out your interests to serve the political machine from which he derives his support. I only wish I had the popcorn concession for this vulgar drama. Enjoy the show. You paid $11.6 million dollars for the ticket.